Dad’s Black Eye by Helen Burke

Dad’s black eye was fantastic.
A thing of beauty. Wondrous.
How it was acquired … another matter.
And that he and the foreman were now best friends …
Even stranger.
When he came into the pub, conversation stopped and then he told the story.
And drinks were bought on the strength of it.
And the blackness of the eye seemed to swell with pride.
Yellow and purple and a rich maroon.
Like a Vermeer – but without the pearl earring.
And then the foreman coming in to a hushed silence …
And them shaking hands and laughing and people
Breathing a sigh of relief that was also yellow and purple.
And a camel walking in to the bar and being ignored
And walking out again.
And the eye becoming a story, a drinker in its own right
With its own allocated seat by the fire.
And Christmas just two days away – this Dad’s present to us.
And myself – so proud.
But Mam … maybe … less so.

Helen Burke has been writing poetry for over 40 years, and has been widely published in magazines, including Rialto, New Welsh Review, Northwords, Dreamcatcher, and in numerous anthologies. Her competition successes include The Manchester International Competition, The Suffolk Poetry Prize, and The Ilkley Literature Performance Poetry Prize. She has two full collections published by Valley Press – The Ruby SlIppers (2011) and Here’s Looking at You Kid (2014) – and a hardback, illustrated, annotated collected edition – Today the Birds Will Sing (2017) – which includes all her poetry published since the 1970s.